Do’s and don’ts for marketing and PR translations
Published on February 17th, 2011 by Aileen Abella
Some of the most famous taglines and successful marketing campaigns of all time have been complete flops in foreign markets because they were translated literally. Consider these slogan translation mishaps:
- Coors Beer’s slogan “Turn It Loose” was translated into Spanish as “Suffer from Diarrhea.”
- Pepsi’s “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” was translated to “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave” in Chinese.
- The wildly successful “Got Milk?” campaign expanded to hit the Mexican market, but the Spanish translation was read as “Are You Lactating?”
- Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick” to the German market, not realizing that “mist” is slang for “manure” in German.
The translator becomes a critical piece to the puzzle when translating for marketing and PR, bridging the language divide to keep your brand integrity intact. The role of the translator is to render the text in the target language, while staying true to the source in meaning, tone and context. It can be a difficult balancing act because the translator cannot “transcreate” the document, but would need to be somewhat creative when communicating a play on words or catchy phrases. Otherwise, the gist will fall on deaf ears or just make you sound “out of touch” with your audience.
Marketing and PR materials are often laced with slogans, idioms, clever word play; they’re catchy and attention grabbing. But those same sayings are particular to the English language and may not play well with cultural sensitivities in a foreign language and end up getting lost in translation. Just one wrong word, inappropriate reference or wrong meaning can steer the translation in a whole different direction. To avoid this, here are some do’s and don’ts:
- Do hire a professional translator or professional translation company to translate your marketing or PR materials.
- Don’t be tempted to forgo translations altogether and just distribute in English. It’s a courtesy to render materials in one’s native language. It will also help penetration in a local market and/or pick up by the media. In some markets, no translation means it’s as good as in the trash.
- Don’t rely solely on an employee who claims to be bilingual. You don’t know their exact skill level in the target language and he/she might also not be as fluent in corporate communications as he/she is in spoken English.
- Do request prior approval to review translations, if at all possible. You can run a final translation by your local in-country office to add flare or for extra localization. That’s where your in-house bilingual can chime in.
- Do provide the translator glossaries, reference documents or even past marketing and PR materials to use as a guide for the tone you prefer. This allows for consistency in your communications moving forward and takes out the guess work for the translator.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to get your documents translated. Translators work at pace of about 100 words per hour, plus editing time. Requiring the translator to work faster would sacrifice some creativity and accuracy. Cutting corners can lead to costly mistakes in the long run; plan ahead.
Let Marketwire’s seasoned and professional translators work with your team to convey your message in virtually any language. Contact your local Marketwire representative for more information on our product offerings and translation services. Silly rabbit, that’s what we’re here for!
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